Devel­op­ment is a far cry for two ne­glected Kharghar vil­lages

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - NAVI MUMBAI - Pranab Jy­oti Bhuyan pranab.bhuyan@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NAVI MUM­BAI: Twelve- year- old Vishal Pardi, a Class 6 stu­dent from Fanaswadi vil­lage in the Kharghar hills, walks al­most 10km ev­ery day to reach his school at Ko­pra.

Af­ter study­ing up to Class 5 in the pri­mary school of his vil­lage, he, along with many other chil­dren from the neigh­bour­hood, took ad­mis­sion in the high school.

As his par­ents could not af­ford the bills of a pri­vate van, he walks 20km ev­ery day to his school. Un­able to with­stand this or­deal, many chil­dren of the vil­lage have left their ed­u­ca­tion half­way.

Lo­cated seven kilo­me­tres deep in­side the Kharghar hills, Fanaswadi and Charpe­wadi vil­lages have seen lit­tle changes since In­de­pen­dence. De­spite be­ing close to a de­vel­oped node like Kharghar, th­ese vil­lages still do not have pub­lic trans­port fa­cil­i­ties. The vil­lagers have to walk al­most one hour ei­ther to reach Kharghar town or the LP junc­tion at Nerul on the other side.

The only pri­mary school, which is r un by t he Zilla Par­ishad, was opened in 2006. How­ever, it has just two teach­ers to take care of nearly 30 stu­dents study­ing from Class 1 to 5. The school has just two class­rooms with desks and benches in one of them.

“We re­alise that some­thing called gov­er­nance and democ­racy ex­ists only be­fore the elec­tions. Peo­ple come here ask­ing

for votes with lots of prom­ises. But we don’t see their faces un­til the next elec­tion,” said Gu­lap Chau­gade, 25, a res­i­dent of Fanaswadi vil­lage.

Sur­rounded by rocky hills and forests, th­ese two vil­lages are home to around 50- odd fam­i­lies with a pop­u­la­tion of nearly 300.

Many of the vil­lagers do var­i­ous odd jobs to earn their liveli­hood. Men are em­ployed as con­tract work­ers in gov­ern­ment agen­cies while women col­lect fire- woods and catch

fish in the ponds and rivulets and sell them in the city.

Un­til two years ago th­ese vil­lages had no elec­tric­ity. Af­ter sev­eral re­quests re­ceived from the vil­lagers, gram pan­chayat of­fi­cials fi­nally in­stalled con­crete poles and con­nected them with over­head wires in 2013. Though elec­tric­ity lit up their huts, lack of road con­nec­tiv­ity de­prived them of ed­u­ca­tion.

There is not street light any­where in those vil­lages till date.

“Be­cause of dense forests and snakes, peo­ple get scared to walk on the roads af­ter the sun­set. If we are bound to travel for some ur­gent work at night, we pre­fer walk­ing in groups to avert any un­to­ward in­ci­dent,” Chau­gade said.

Other fa­cil­i­ties like health cen­ters, banks and mar­kets are also dis­tant re­al­i­ties for th­ese vil­lagers.

“At times we feel as if we were stay­ing an is­land, com­pletely cut off from the rest of the world. We can­not move to some other places be­cause

of our fi­nan­cial is­sues,” said Pappu Pardi, 22, an­other res­i­dent.

Ear­lier t ourists used to visit the hills ev­ery year dur­ing mon­soon. How­ever, af­ter some peo­ple died in a land­slide, the City and In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Cor po­ra­tion ( Cidco) stopped en­try to th­ese ar­eas a few years ago.

Like many other i ssues, water cri­sis is also not new to them. The tanks of the vil­lages are filled with borewell water ev­ery morn­ing, and the res­i­dents come to col­lect water.

“We can­not get borewell water as there’s no elec­tric­ity for two to three days and thus the tanks run dry. So, we have to de­pend on two very old

wells lo­cated be­hind our vil­lages. Water taken from th­ese wells is not potable due to lack of main­te­nance. How­ever, we have no op­tion but to sur­vive with that,” said Manish Kode, 31, an­other vil­lager.

“E ve n wh e n our tanks re­main f ull with borewell water, we are al­lowed to use it only for drink­ing pur­pose; so, we have no op­tion but to fetch water f rom the dirty wells through­out the year for clean­ing and wash­ing pur­poses. There­fore, the main­te­nance of th­ese wells has be­come the need of hour,” he added.

Iron­i­cally, th­ese two vil­lages give a clear view of the en­tire Kharghar node which is be­ing trans­formed into an ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic hub spend­ing crores of ru­pees.

Som­nath Mha­tre, deputy sarpanch of Kharghar gram pan­chayat, said, “We are de­vel­op­ing a health cen­tre in a nearby vil­lage and the res­i­dents of the said two vil­lages can take ad­van­tage of it. We al­ready have one am­bu­lance for the health cen­tre. Un­der Gharkul Yo­jna, we have given Rs5 lakh to each f am­ily to con­struct their houses. A month ago, we pro­vided LPG con­nec­tions to all of them.”

He added that the roads in the hills are un­der the City and In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion ( Cidco) and so they can­not in­stall street lights there.

“We have, how­ever, writ­ten to them to take the req­ui­site mea­sures at the ear­li­est. We had ear­lier pro­vided ve­hi­cles for stu­dents to go to school, but the ser­vice was can­celled due to some is­sues. We will see if we can re­sume it,” he said.

Even when our tanks re­main full with borewell water, we are al­lowed to use it only for drink­ing pur­pose; so, we have no op­tion but to fetch water from the dirty wells through­out the year for non-potable use. MANISH KODE, a res­i­dent of Fanaswadi vil­lage

PHO­TOS: BACHCHAN KU­MAR

The res­i­dents of Fanaswadi and Charpe­wadi vil­lages have been fac­ing water prob­lem for years.

Kharghar is 10kms away from the vil­lages but there is no pub­lic trans­port. Chil­dren trudge to school ev­ery day.

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